Shadow President is a geopolitical simulation game released by D.C. True in 1993.
There are five alternative histories to play through, but each starts on June 1, 1990 near the outset of the first Gulf War.
Earns a cyberpunk tag for the game’s use of a Shadow Network, a mysterious computer system and artificial intelligence which allows you as President to easily access important actors both foreign and domestic.
D.C. True is a now defunct software company, whose lead designers were Brad Stock and Robin Antonick. The company focused on simulations; Robin was involved in the development of the first John Madden Football game, and D.C. True had a role developing John Madden Football II, along with the geopolitical simulations Shadow President and CyberJudas as well as Hard Truck 2, which can be described as a predecessor to games like Euro Truck Simulator.
Antonick’s role developing John Madden Football was later the root of some controversy, as he would engage in a lengthy legal battle with EA over whether or not he was entitled to a share of the franchise profits.
Antonick also founded another now defunct game development company, Real Sports, which continued to focus on sports simulations that emphasized the use of real world data.
On that note, it’s worth mentioning that Shadow President contains a complete copy of the 1990 CIA World Factbook!
When Robin Antonick and Brad Stock were tossing around their ideas for a presidential simulation back in 1984, they had no idea what an effort it would be. After doing some research, Stock came to the conclusion that some research just wasn’t enough.
He enrolled in the doctoral program in political science at Tufts University and spent seven years studying international politics.
After years of study, he had learned enough about international relations to be asked to brief the State Department before a NATO meeting.
By converting Stock’s studies into a complex array of algorithms, the programmers at D. C. True were able to blend the formulas with the comprehensive world data from CIA World Factbook to create a dynamic, living world.
— Paul C. Schuytema writing in COMPUTE! Magazine
The COMPUTE! article notes a very similar game, Crisis in the Kremlin, in which the player takes the role of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during roughly the same time period.
An extensive review of the game appeared in issue 108 of Computer Gaming World.
It’s highly ethical and educational, but boring.
— Chuck Moss
But it appears to have been designed that way, even picking up an EduCom Distinguished Social Sciences Software Award according to the CVs of two of the game’s designers. The team also had a role in the development of Electric Reading Land - software aimed at teaching basic reading skills - at the behest of Seth Weinberger, which suggests to me that they consistently aimed for realism and educational value in the software they developed.
Shadow President warranted a sequel, CyberJudas. The main difference between the two is that CyberJudas included a traitor mechanic, with a NPC member of the cabinet actively working against you. As a design choice, this may have been to address critics’ concerns that Shadow President was too tedious.
The lead creative force on this and other D.C. True games was Charlie Athanas, who is still a working artist in Illinois and active on Twitter!